Saturday, February 28, 2009

One Day At A Time

We took Pepper to the vet today. It wasn’t easy, but I’m happy to report that we also brought her home again. I’m going into one-day-at-a-time mode. The vet is going to run blood tests and thinks it might be neurological, something to do with the spinal cord. She’s prescribed Tramadol, since Pepper has such a sensitive stomach. It’s weird that Pepper’s legs work okay enough to walk one minute and completely fail her the next. Several months ago when this first occurred, it only happen for a few hours and then she was able to walk. Now, it’s happening with greater frequency since last night. This afternoon, I gave her a Tramadol when we got home, and she is totally zonked out.

We’ve been at the same vet practice for four years, but this is a new vet that we saw today. I was really pleased with her approach, which was very sympathetic and kind. She seemed to genuinely like Pepper, who was very comfortable with her. The vet calmed me down right away when we got there, even though my husband had to carry in our 80-pound dog. This might all be new and scary to me, but I’ve got a feeling that she sees lots of dogs that can’t walk. My husband is acting like everything is going to be fine now. Pepper is his girl. They adore each other.

I decided to try positive visualization this morning, imagining how it would be to go to the vet and come back home with Pepper. To my surprise, it actually went exactly as I had imagined it would. So, although I’ve always been kind of skeptical of this type of thing, I’m going to keep visualizing my sweet doggie getting better, and I’m anxiously awaiting the results of the blood tests on Tuesday or Wednesday. Right now, I’m just very happy to look at her sleeping contentedly on her dog bed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Near Miss or Two

Let’s hear it for flexible fencing! It warmed up today, and the horses were very frisky. Too frisky, in fact, because Siete raced up to the fence and reared up, catching her front legs between the slats. It all sort of happened in slow motion. I came over to the fence to try to free her and I kept saying easy, easy. She was still balancing on her back legs. The good news is that she listened and didn’t panic. She lifted herself up higher instead of crashing down to the ground with the fence twisted around her, and she kind of pirouetted away still on two legs. My heart was pounding. Silk stopped as motionless as a statue.

As soon as Siete had freed herself, Silk’s tail went straight up in the air, and she started bucking. Siete started running in circles around her mother while they both snorted loudly. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were. My husband ran out and was able to tighten up the fence so there’s no damage to anyone or anything. Both horses were really subdued the rest of the afternoon, standing close together.

Now, six hours later, we’re anxious about our poor old dog, Pepper. She’s 14 and can hardly walk. Her spirits are good, but her legs are barely able to support her. I could tell this morning that she has developed a bladder infection. We’re going to take her to the vet tomorrow. Whenever she stands up, one of us has to help her. Tonight, every time I tried to get her up, her legs gave out and she fell over. This same scary thing happened before about six months ago. That time, she made a miraculous recovery. Pepper has the most amazing will to live. She is still so alert and cheerful which is why we’ve decided to keep on doing what we’re doing until she doesn’t have that joy in her eyes anymore.

But tonight, I immediately thought, this is it. My husband, the eternal optimist, reminded me that she’s revived before as he carried her to her dog bed. After about an hour and some left over hamburger, Pepper did rally. She was able to stand with my help and walk on her own to her water bowl. A second near miss in the same day. Man, this is exhausting! I’m praying that tomorrow, we’ll get her to the vet and back home safely. For the moment, I’m feeling hopeful and grateful that my animals have such good survival instincts.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ears Up!

This week, I received this award from my dear friend, Arlene, at Grey Horse Matters. I have to admit that at first, I looked at it and thought it was kind of weird. It wasn’t hearts and flowers and cute and charming. It was an ear. It came with this explanation:

“The Van Gogh's Ear Award is for blogs that are making a difference in the blogosphere. Its creator said, "We are all artists in our own way, be it art, photography, writing, philosophy, comedy, or blogging, and we all go a little crazy sometimes. But if you ever feel so crazy to cut off your ear and give it to a prostitute, "Seek Help"! Always remember you're unique. Just like everyone else."

Now, I can promise you that I’d never consider cutting off my ear and giving it to a prostitute, and I am certain that none of the bloggers who receive this award from me would ever think of doing that either. But I do appreciate the significance of the ear as a symbol of our ability to listen to each other and support what others have to say.

I’ve been teaching a new phrase to Siete. She’s been quite grumpy recently, as so many of us have been. Her reaction is to pin her ears back in protest. One of Carolyn Resnick’s suggestions is to say, “Ears up!” and wait to give the horse a treat until she perks her ears towards you to indicate that she is listening. It took me a long time to realize the importance of learning to listen well. I like to tell stories, so for many years, I spent a great deal of time noting what was happening to me or to others, and then talking or writing about it. It was only as I got older that I understood how important it is to simple listen and keep your mouth shut.

Raising my daughter, I constantly remember something that an old friend of mine once told me. Her son was having a lot of troubles in his life, and when he would tell her what was happening, she would try to give him advice. She said that finally she figured out that what he really needed was for her to just walk along beside him and listen. Ever since I heard that, I’ve tried to spend more time listening and less time talking.

So, while there are many blogs that make me go, “Ears up!”, I’d like to pass this award on to the following ones:
The Dog House
Oak in the Seed
Spartacus Jones
Esther Garvi
Unseen Dharamsala

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Waiting Game

It feels like we are in a holding pattern. The daily routine with the horses is guided by the weather. I’ve been waiting until after noon to turn them out because of a layer of ice that forms overnight and then melts from the warmer daytime temperatures. Silk and Siete are content to hang out in their stalls and corral, showing very little interest in what’s going on in the pasture, which is unusual. We’re all just waiting for Spring. The only one who is going to be upset once it arrives is Siete since I plan to put a grazing muzzle on her this year. After all the drama last Fall, I want to limit how much she eats so we can keep her weight in check.

We keep tightening our belts here. When I was at my local feed store yesterday, they told me that they were having trouble getting any bagged shavings. The construction industry is so slow that there’s very little scrap lumber and the mills are shutting down. I had read that there was going to be a shavings shortage, so it came as no surprise. Once they do locate some, they warned me that the price will also go way up since it will cost them so much more to ship them from further away and the mills know they can get top dollar due to the shortage. Around town, more and more businesses are shutting down. My friends and I spend more time on the phone, keeping each other going with positive energy.

It’s a good thing that I have my horses to comfort and distract me. They ground me and restore my spirits, and they are shedding like crazy -- which means that better times are just around the corner.

"I don't know if it's human nature or the way of life on Earth, but we seldom become all of who we are until forced to it..... We are often called further into experience than we'd like to go, but it is this extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be alive."
Mark Nepo, "The Book of Awakening"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Learning to Speak "Horse"

As the years roll by, living with my horses in my backyard, I am beginning to see the patterns emerge. They are very much set by Mother Nature and the seasons. February has always been my least favorite month. I have an intense longing for Spring, and I know that my horses do too. Once again, Siete is challenging all of us, trying to move up from her place at the bottom of our little herd. I am finding a greater understanding of her behavior and coming up with better responses to it this time around.

I really have Carolyn Resnick to thank for this. I’ve mentioned her on my blog since she started sharing her wisdom via the internet with all of us “horse conscious” people earlier this year. It’s incredibly generous of her to offer her insights with such an open heart. Earlier in the week, she participated in an inter-active teleconference and discussion with Anna Twinney. People were able to submit questions to her ahead of time and also during the conversation. I asked her for suggestions to help me build my relationship with Siete during this time when the weather didn’t permit us to get out into the arena together. She had some great suggestions for little things to do to help Siete look to me as the leader and feel more content in her place in the herd.

She mentioned just spending time with Siete in the stall reading a book and being together. This is an idea that I adopted years ago when we moved here. I knew that during bad weather, I would need to be in the stalls with my horses often. So, from day one in our barn, I have just hung out with them on a regular basis. They expect me to be in the enclosed space with them. I’m pretty claustrophobic, so it might actually have been a bigger leap of faith for me than for them. They just accepted it without any issues.

One of Carolyn’s recommendations was that while Siete and I are together in her stall, I should continue to follow the exercise that she teaches in her “Waterhole Rituals” of offering food and then asking the horse to move away from the food until you invite her to return. Horses do this all the time to each other. I see Silk playing this game with her daughter all day long. I’ve discovered that when I ask Siete to move away while she is eating and then reward her for her willingness to do it, that notion of having to follow my lead and respect my requests resonates into all the other things that I do with her. It’s so simple, but so effective.

I realized that I have been deeply influenced by certain men in the horse world: Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Mark Rashid. What is interesting is to see how women like Carolyn Resnick and Linda Kohanov are teaching me equally profound ideas that come from a more heartfelt direction. Comparing what these men and women believe doesn’t imply that one gender brings something better than the other. The differences and the similarities are equally enlightening coming from the male and female points of view. They all are helping me address the question that I posed back in one of the first posts on this blog: Can a horse really enjoy being trained? I think that Carolyn’s experiences over so many years, with so many different kinds of horses, from the wild to the most schooled, give me great hope that I can help Siete find pleasure in being ridden and in spending time together with human beings. Since Silk was abused by people before I came into her life, I am acutely aware of how important it is to give her daughter a kinder, more positive experience. I feel really fortunate that Carolyn is so willing to share her knowledge and that my horses and I are able to benefit from it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Valentine for Silk

When everything can change in an instant,
you stay as constant as a star
in my spinning round world.
When some days just make me want to hide in the barn,
the murmur of your gentle welcome
comforts my worn out soul.
You carry me to places far beyond
the dusty tracks of this arena
trusting me trusting you
as the journey takes us
into the unknown
and back again.

Happy Valentine's Day to my Silkie Silk, the best horse in the world!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's Melting!

Things began to thaw today. It’s not pretty, so I’m not posting any pictures. I also apologize for not blogging much recently. I’m working on a new video project and a script, both of which are occupying my thoughts night and day.

I took the blankets off the girls since it got up to almost 40F degrees today. It felt like a heat-wave. Looks like it’s going to stay this warm all week. Only 42 days until it’s officially Spring. March 20th can't come soon enough! I spent some time this morning looking at an email from White Flower Farms offering a fabulous selection of tomatoes that they will be planting and shipping in March and April. We ate tasty baby asparagus last night, and earlier this week, I gave in and bought some fragrant strawberries from California. The longing for the Vernal Equinox is strong around here!

Perhaps the most important sign that this dreadful winter is coming to an end is that Siete is shedding like crazy. Silk is still a fuzzball, but the little one is losing her winter coat big time. I throw balls of fur to the birds so they can start making nests. The chickadees are back in the barn already, and unfortunately, so are the catbirds. Those evil thieves steal the nests that the chickadees work so hard to build. They also dive bomb me when I come in the stalls. The horses ignore all the bird drama, but I’m considering hanging some cd’s on strings from the beams on the ceiling. The cd’s spin in the wind and catch the light and supposedly it scares the birds away. Now, if it would only chase away certain types of birds - maybe if I used cd’s that had been recorded with classical music or esoteric jazz, those crass catbirds would disappear and leave my lovely chickadees alone.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Food For Thought

I’ve been listening to a teleseminar series created by Stormy May and Mark Mottershead that grew out of Stormy’s video, “The Path of the Horse”. Stormy and Anna Twinney are joined each week by some of the people who appear in the video to further the discussion about an emerging horse consciousness. This latest conversation was with Linda Kohanov, who has been a great influence in my life. Years ago, Linda was the first person who really validated and clearly expressed what I had been feeling about horses when she wrote “The Tao of Equus”. I often feel the little “aha!” light bulb go on inside me when I read or hear what she has to say, and I’m happy to find that she didn’t disappoint me this time.

Linda brought up some scientific research being done that shows there are energy fields around human and horses’ bodies that pulse out as far as ten feet from us so that horses can actually feel our heart rate and blood pressure when we approach them. If we are incongruent --wearing a mask and trying to stuff our emotions-- the horse will feel it, and its blood pressure and heart rate might also rise. She suggests that we do our horse a favor and admit it if we get scared or frustrated or angry. Don’t punish your horse for what you brought to the stable, was one of her messages.

She suggested that when you start to interact with your horse, you ask yourself, “What are we going to discover today?” Like many of us, Linda admitted that being with horses this way reverberates out to how she relates to people in her life and makes her less interested in riding than in exploring what the horses can teach us. She said that in order to connect to the horse, we must learn to pay attention to both ourselves and another being at the same time - not just paying attention to the other being or just to yourself or not paying attention at all. She believes that the horse teaches you to have these kind of mutual relationships with others. She explained that it’s often a real revelation to the woman who comes to workshops at Linda’s ranch who doesn’t pay enough attention to herself and focuses too much on what others want and need. When she said that, the light bulb went on for me. Isn’t that just what I’ve been noticing about myself recently? Not taking time to nourish myself takes its toll on my relationships with everyone else in my life.

Her advice is if your horse acts like it doesn’t want to be around you, step back and check in with yourself. Just being conscious of what you’re feeling will cause your blood pressure to drop, and you’ll become more congruent. The horse is simply asking you for the acknowledgement, not to fix it, but to hold the place where healing might occur. Anna Twinney responded by saying that it’s very important not to miss the little miracles that happen every day.

This weekend, I was talking to a woman about how people find their strength in their broken places. It reminded me of a quote Kohanov attributes to an anonymous aboriginal woman in her book, “Way of the Horse”: “ If you have come to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together.” If Silk could talk, I know she'd agree with that. And I have come to appreciate this wisdom deep in my bones.